When Al and Tipper Gore let the world know that they were finally throwing in the towel, it wasn’t a bit of a surprise to a generation of baby boomers who were in the middle of such a transition themselves. The baby boomer generation is reappraising its marital commitments at an overwhelming pace. The New York Times just reported a couple of months ago that conservative rural communities in places like Iowa that have never heard of divorce are finally beginning to notch up the statistics themselves. Wherever the couple might be from though, divorce after 50 can be far more complicated than divorce at a younger age. The longer couples live together before they split, the more they are twined up with each other. There are children to worry about, businesses shared, sharred home loans, retirement accounts and life insurance policies signed on together, and other complications. If you find yourself in a position where you need to break free after having remained married for a long time, here’s a divorce checklist for you so that you don’t make the kind of mistakes others in your position do.
Couples over 50 often have two major areas of investment – their homes and their 401(k) retirement accounts. One mistake that people in the over-50 set make when they consider divorce is that they grossly overestimate the value they have in these. Retirement accounts are pretax; that means that you are only going to get 65% of what your balance is. People somehow just ignore all of this and plan for their divorce as if they have 100% of what their retirement accounts say they do. If you live in states like Arizona, Texas or Nevada, where community property gets split clean down the middle, you can’t look at the value you have in your retirement account and your house and think that since they are both worth the same, it would be pretty fair if one took this and the other took the other. The one who chooses the retirement account suddenly finds that they have a little over half what they thought they did. Put it on your divorce checklist that you’re not make this mistake.
Often though, with working couples, monthly incomes may be far more important a consideration than assets like the ones we just spoke about. In divorcing couples, alimony often helps the spouse that earns less, make up in a big way for their loss of living standard. Banking too much on the alimony though is a mistake that lots of people make. There’s no way you can depend on how long a person will live once they turn 50. If you find yourself in this position, you need to right away put it on your divorce checklist that you need to get a life insurance policy for the spouse you are divorcing. Many people make the mistake of just remaining reassured that they are named beneficiary on their ex-husband’s insurance policy. That isn’t enough. They might change that at any time. And then, people go and forget about how Social Security is rather underestimated. If you’ve stayed married for at least 10 years, you get your ex-spouse’s benefits. It’s just something that people forget.